17 February, 2009

AT&T Wi-Fi just cost me five hours of my life!

I just lost five hours of my life due to a theft that occurred when I submitted my debit card number to pay for two hours of Wi-Fi service from an AT&T Wi-Fi hotspot. Here's what happened:

On 2 February 2009 I was up visiting Mom in Harford, CT. I was really itching (and needing) to get on-line, and knew that I would have to resort to finding some WiFi hotspots when I went up, as my mobile broadband was temporarily disconnected (I need money to pay the bill!). So before my trip, I prepared by printing out a list of Wi-Fi hotspots in the Hartford, CT area (both paid and free). I was using a free Wi-Fi spot (one of the few in the area that were open late) but unfortunately, the battery in my notebook had drained since I'd been using it for a while and there wasn't anyplace for me to plug in. I decided to search out some of the paid spots and came to Barnes & Noble, which had a Starbucks cafe inside of it, which provided Wi-Fi for a fee through AT&T's WiFi On The Spot service.

I got to the B&N and had to ask the cashier at their Starbucks Cafe where an outlet was so that I could plug in -- apparently, there aren't any outlets provided in the cafe itself but outside of the cafe, on a pillar, was an outlet (in the B&N store proper) that I could plug into and sit in the cafe area and use their WiFi so I could finish what I was doing on-line. In order to get the Wi-Fi service, AT&T's WiFi On The Spot service requires that you open up Microsoft's flawed (especially in terms of security) Internet Explorer browser (which I actually had to enable on my sytem, as one of the first things I do with a system is disable that beast...), which auto-logs you onto their secured web site so you can enter in payment information for the $3.95 they charge for a two-hour session. You need to keep the IE window open the entire time that you're logged in, or you lose the connection/authorization for the Wi-Fi.

Since this is something I've done before, I made certain that no one was standing over my shoulder or behind me, took out my debit card and quickly entered in the information, clicked the submit button, and within a few seconds my Wi-Fi access was enabled and off I went.

Fast-forward to today, 15 days later. I receive a response from my bank (yesterday was a bank/federal holiday) to an inquiry I had made over the weekend, regarding an overdraft fee in the amount of $33.00 that was charged to my account at the end of last week. They responded that it was due to an EFT withdrawal from PayPal that was denied. That caught my attention, as I hadn't used my PayPal account for any purchases that would cause it to dip into my bank account, and there was a little bit of money in my PayPal account anyway. So I log into my PayPal account and I see this charge of $29.95 from "GOVTFUNDEDGRANTS 8007127222 CY."

I call PayPal, and they have me fill out and fax in a form disputing the charge, which I do. I then call my bank and find out that there's no just one charge from them but for several. The $29.95 charge hadn't yet hit my bank and, in fact, the $33 overdraft fee was from a $1.01 charge that was denied a week earlier. I go back to PayPal and find that there have been numerous attempted purchases/authorizations on my debit card with them. So I'm on the phone, back and forth between PayPal and my bank for quite some time. And then I realize that I'm only viewing the past 7 days' worth of transactions in my PayPal account. I go back and find out that all of these unauthorized charges, most of which were made to or payable to the merchant name of "GOVTFUNDEDGRANTS 8007127222 CY," began on 2 February 2009, and were listed after the $3.95 fee from AT&T (for their Wi-Fi service) was posted.

Since I know how careful I was to ensure that no one was in my immediate vicinity and could therefore take down my debit card number, the only way that my account number could have been compromised was in transmission to AT&T for payment of their WiFi On The Spot service or there has been a breach in AT&T's database where my debit card number was stored. Thus, either someone sitting at the same Wi-Fi hotspot as I was using a computer (there were more than a handful of other people there on their computers) capturing the WiFi data packets, decrypting them, and found my debit card number, or (more likely) my debit card number was capture somewhere en-route from the location to AT&T's payment processing center.

The reason I think that my card number was hijacked somewhere en route to AT&T's payment processing center is that on the few occassions that the payments went through on my debit card, PayPal charged a foreign currency transaction fee, which indicates to me that these charges are originating overseas.

Once I was finished dealing with my bank (which is refunding the $33 overdraft surcharge to me in consideration of my long-standing status as a valued customer), I contacted AT&T's WiFi services via the number listed on the charge to my account, and told them what was going on. The representative that I spoke with was very pleasant and a big flabberghasted; she sounded older and wasn't certain what to do with what I was telling her. When I advised her that I work in the IT industry and I pretty much have deduced that my debit card number was hijacked at some point during my access to AT&T's WiFi network during that 2-hour period, most likely when the number was transmitted to them for payment and, as such, the reason that I was calling was to alert them of this situation in the event that there had been a security breach in their system somewhere and so that they would be able to take corrective action, she then figured that she needed to speak with a supervisor. After doing so, she took down everything I had to say, and stopped trying to reassure me that AT&T did everything that was required of them by the banks for online transactions (with respect to security and 128-bit encryption and what not) and then advised me that our conversation would be delivered to her managing supervisor as soon as the call ended. So after spending 4.5 hours trying to resolve my own difficulties, I thought I should do the good deed and at least give AT&T a heads-up

So thus, the reason that AT&T's Wi-Fi service cost me five hours of my life: five hours of research and phone calls and filling out complaint forms in order to deal with these fraudulent charges that were posted to my account when my debit card number was hijacked. I'll never get those five hours of my life back. If they can find the SOB who committed this crime against me, I have a good mind to sue them for the value of the time I've spent dealing with this so far (and I have no doubt that I'll continue to spend time in dealing with this in the future).

For the record, I totally and completely blame Microsoft for this; if it weren't for their crappy browser filled with huge security holes, none of this would ever have happened. :P

09 February, 2009

My Twitbin/TwitterFox Wish List

OK So I've basically had to choose between one of the three FireFox extensions that I've been trying out that integrate the Twitter service into FireFox. I think I've got my top pick; however, there are some issues that I need to take up with them, and some features I'd like to see implemented:

The new version of Twitbin (2.0) is much, much better than the previous release and really puts it back into the running as a contender. In fact, the only reason that I started looking for an alternative is because I found Twitbin to be pretty much broken--but that was the old version.

So I love love love the RT (that's "Retweet" for you non-Twitterites ... a RT is when you basically twit out someone else's tweet in order to help spread the word to your follows; it's basically a "pay it forward" form of good-will on Twitter) function in Twitbin; I don't know of any other Twitter extension that offers the ability to RT with the click on an icon.

There's a problem with the @ function, though (@ is when you direct a message to a certain user but keep it in public; it remains on the public timelines but it's sent to their attention--it's basically used to respond to other people's twits). Well, two problems, actually: (a) When you click on the "@" icon to respond to someone, the text entry window does not focus. You have to manually click your mouse into the text entry window. What's more, (b) you have to hit your space bar before you begin typing. While clicking on the "@" icon copies "@" to the text entry box (which is not focused afterwards), it does NOT put a space in, so if you start typing your response without adding a space, in essence you end up sending your @ reply to a totally different person!

I love how you can ♥ a tweet. When you click on the ♥ icon, you basically add the current tweet to your list of "Favourites" on Twitter, which people can view when they go to your Twitter URL (http://twitter.com/[twitterusername]/).

To me, the "i" icon is a bit redundant; it takes you to the user's Twitter Page, which you can also do by clicking on their icon picture.

I really like that you have the option of displaying tweets from your Friends, your @s, your DMs, your ♥s, and from the public timeline (which includes EVERYONE on Twitter and, quite frankly, is very busy!).

Now, there's one other major deficiency with Twitbin 2.0 that I see: there's no way to respond to DM (that's Direct Message for you non-Twitterphiles--essentially, a private message between two Twitterers that's not on the public timeline) via a DM by simply clicking on an icon, like there is to reply to an @ message (even though it's a bit buggy). In the "D" list, there should be a little "d" icon that, when clicked on from a DM directed toward you, should do the following: (a) place the text: "d [TwitterUserName] " into the text input box and (b) focus the text input box with the cursor after the space, after the username.

That's not all that difficult now, is it? Twitterfox has managed to do it.

Speaking of Twitterfox, while I appreciate their "Recent," "Replies," and "Messages" tab, I don't think it's necessary to spell it all out as they do. To me, Twitterfox would be more useful if it were transparent and then became solid on-hover (when you hold the mouse over it). As it is, it blocks too much of my screen real estate (I'm working via a notebook computer, not much I can do to upgrade the resolution or anything). Twitbin sits in the sidebar which I usually don't have open but now, I'm finding I prefer the sidebar as opposed to coming onto my screen. Neither is ideal but for me, the preference is sidebar.

What I do like about TwitterFox is that it shows you the number of X-type of Twits that you have awaiting you. For instance, I just signed into TwitterFox and and it's telling me that I have 19 Recent, 20 Replies, and 20 Messages since my last login with them. I also really like how there's an icon to "insert current tab's URL" into the text entry box; however, it would be MUCH more useful if TwitterFox shortened the URL in the current tab (via a URL-shortening service such as TinyURL).

Additionally, the text-entry box in TwitterFox grows as soon as you start typing something in there and won't shrink back (even if you clear everything out) until you hit enter. That's not-so-cool.

So Twitbin, are you listening? Make these changes and I think you'll have a killer Twitter add-0n for Firefox! BTW Twitbin, why don't you have a Twitter accoutn linked from your web site so we can follow you???

02 February, 2009

Ain't Life Grand?

2 February 2009, 14:00

OK, so the Psycho Bitch (my younger brother's daughter's mother--who, when she met my sister told her "well I would never have a child out of wedlock because I am a CHRISTIAN") just showed up to my brother's apartment building (not the apartment itself but the building). She's actually standing downstairs, outside in the cold with her daughter (my younger brother's daughter, aka my niece Cherokee Phrakousonh, whom I have never met) and refusing to come inside because she saw me poke my head out of the window (I poked my head out of the apartment window because I heard somebody calling "Hellooooooooo" downstairs--not in a loud voice mind you but in a normal talking voice). Now, why she didn't pick up the phone and call my brother to let her know that she was here, I can't tell you because I don't know.

Now here's the best part: essentially, because this psychotic "Christian do-gooder" firmly believes that I'm one of those child-molesting, child-abusing little FAGGOTS (yes, she firmly believes that homosexual=child molester), she's going to subject her daughter to freezing temperatures and refuse to come inside because she doesn't want the child-abusing faggot near her daughter I still have yet to meet this other niece of mine and as long as the psychobitch has custody of her, I probably never will.

Now, for the record, I never have abused (sexually or otherwise) any child in my entire life, and I think that those who take the innocence away from a child (by abusing such child) should have all of their reproductive organs extricated from their bodies without the benefit or aid of anaesthesia.

OK, so now the manipulative psychobitch is getting my mother to give her food, because she's crying that the $75/week in child support that my brother gives her isn't enough for her to be able to afford pampers or food or anything. So my mother, not wanting to see one of her grandchildren suffer, is packing up a bag of food that she just bought for herself, and will herself now go hungry instead of allowing her granddaughter to go hungry. And the best part about this is that we all know that the food isn't going to find its way into the child's mouth; the psychobitch is going to use it to fill her own tummy. After all, why should she do anything when she can get free money from the state, plus foodstamps for [EDIT]threefour[/EDIT] people, by just laying around and being a welfare mom?

This is why I have coined the phrase, "Puerto Rican Princess." She just wants to be taken care of and doesn't feel that she should have to work or even lift a finger. She spends most of her time at my brother's, having him wait on her hand and foot, knowing that he would do anything for her because he's blinded by love.

One of these days, my family will wake up and smell the Java brewing....

Oooooh, and now my mother (who has difficulty walking and what not) is going to get in her car and drive over to this PRP psychobitch's house (or, more probably, pick her up on the corner where she's waiting for this gift of life-sustaining energy in the form of food and love from my mother, who really doesn't give a rats ass how she's treated by the psychobitch as long as she can see her grandchild and spend time with the grandchild -- oh yeah, that's something else; the psychobitch uses the fact that my mother gets joy out of spending time with her grandchild and therefore threatens to withhold visitation from her if she doesn't do certain things for her) to drop off the food.

Ain't life grand?

26 January, 2009

California's Prop 8 Funding

OK, So I'm having a Twiscussion with this self-proclaimed geek from Salt Lake City, UT who developed a really cool social networking app. Seeing that he (and his company) were from Salt Lake City, UT, and knowing how the Mormons provided a massive amount of funding to support California's Proposition 8 I sent him a simple question:
Did you (or your corporation) provide any funding to support CA's Prop 8?
And thus began our Twiscussion (I'm coining a lot of new words these days ...).

I'm glad to say that Jesse has not provided any funds in support of Prop 8; however, in our discussion, he raised a really good, and valid, point:
[W]hat studies have been done to show there was money against Prop 8 in SLC? I'd venture to say none that are public.
I don't know about the money but I do know that there was a rally opposing Prop 8 in SLC last year.

So my fellow blogophiles, since I'm kinda spending the vast majority of my time dealing with personal and family issues, can someone else out there pick up the ball and run with this? Just how much money did come out of Salt Lake City, UT to oppose Prop 8 and how does that amount compare with the amount in support thereof?

Twiscussion: (c) 2009 by Peter C. Frank, a portmanteau of "Twitter Discussion" i.e., a discussion among individuals taking place over Web 2.0 / social networking web sites, such as the Twitter social networking web site, via (twitting) SMS-styled and lengthed messages. For example, holding a discussion via Facebook status updates, Twits on Twitter, etc.

25 January, 2009

Slashdot | A Teacher Asking Students To Destroy Notes?

Slashdot | A Teacher Asking Students To Destroy Notes?

OK, in the (likely) event that I ever pursue education in the future, I'm going to make damned sure that I enter into a written contract with each and every professor/trainer/teacher, wherein I obtain an explicit permission that any notes (note: not recordings but notes I create of my own accord based on the information presented in the classroom/labs via lecture and otherwise) I take on the presentations made during class are and will forever belong to me and that such professor/trainer/teacher shall have no right, claim, expectation or any such expectation of having my notes delivered unto them following conclusion of the course/training.

Oh, and by the way, for the record, IANAL and TINLA (but I did attend law school for two years); however, in order to prevent such a thing from happening again, I suggest (in the form of friendly advice) that every student enter into such a contract.

On a personal note, I really would like to see the student take the teacher to court and sue for the return of his/her notes or, failing that, for damages seeking compensation for the student's time and materials used to create such notes. To me, there is an implied contract (with the educational institution that the student pays to attend) that a student would be able to retain their own, non-verbatim notes for whatever use they see fit. That has been the tradition of educational institutions for ages upon ages.

I believe (and again, IANAL) that the professor in this story stepped way over the line when she reached into the student's backpack and physically removed his notebook from his person. Again, TINLA but if I were the student, I would have filed a police report and accused the professor of robbery because, in essence, this is what she did.

Just my US$0.02 on an educational injustice....